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Do you prefer your character to be connected or unconnected to the adventure hook?

pemerton

Legend
If someone is trying to run a player-driven and/or character-driven game of the sort that is typical of systems like Apocalypse world, Blades in the Dark, Burning Wheel, etc, but keeps finding that it turns into either GM-driven/prep-heavy or into random encounters, I don't think a video is going to help.

This is a problem this cropping up, presumably, somewhere between session 2 and (say) session 6. What is happening in those sessions that is causing the problem to occur? A lack of player engagement? A lack of GM imagination? Something else?
 

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Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Are you saying tone can't be read through text? :unsure:o_O Maybe the emojis help.

There are enough fallacies out there that every single argument can fall under the definition of a fallacy. Even ones that are true.
Well, no, this is, in fact, a hasty generalization -- it's true that some arguments invoke fallacies, but it's not therefore true that all arguments invoke a fallacy. You're further using this to try to excuse a poor argument by claiming that all arguments are poor. It doesn't work.

It is true that a conclusion to an argument that invokes an informal fallacy may be true, though. What the informal fallacy does here is say that the argument made doesn't support the conclusion.

Pointing them out doesn't make the argument any stronger.
No, I point them out because it means your argument is poor. I also make sure the explain what the fallacy actually is instead of just naming a fallacy at you. I dislike argument by fallacy, so I take care to show what in the argument fails.

Pointing out different facts, ones that pertain more to the subject, or have more ethos, makes arguments stronger. And for the record, I have one request. One. Not ten. Not five. One. I asked for a video. I used those analogies because it is overwhelming proof that learning visually is easier for most people. That's why people use YouTube to learn how to repair something instead of reading the manual and figuring it out. My premise was, can't we just agree that it's easier if you see it? But apparently, you have to argue over that too.
Asking for a video is fine. Premising the concept the the opposing argument is flawed if it cannot produce a video to your satisfaction is the problem. The other problem is that when people demand such exacting evidence, the stage is set for anything provided to be dismissed as not being sufficient for you to accept. I've played that game, and I'm not doing it again. You can look for a video if you want to see one, and good luck, but demanding I provide you with your preferred evidence is just assigning homework with the promise of a failing grade. Not interested. You've been pointed numerous times to video of how to run other games using these approaches, and been told that doing so will show how you can implement them, at least in limited fashion, into your D&D games because the techniques used aren't tied to the mechanics (the mechanics just make it work better). You've already rejected this as unsuitable to your demands, and insist that you be provided with the exact format you demand to prove the argument. This is just being a jerk -- no fallacy needed.

And you are right surgeons can learn with cats. So fill in the blank. Then they move to _____________________. That's right, cadavers. Then they move to watching surgeries on people. See how people is step one and two. Sorry I wanted to skip the cat step.
So, start with watching Blades in the Dark Let's Play video. Then move to using those techniques yourself in a Blades game. Then move to using those techniques in a 5e game. I mean, seriously, did you not foresee this trivial response to your argument?

You are right, this style of play is not mainstream. In fact, I can't find it all. Others have not stated as much. The "give an inch they'll take a mile" mantra is incredibly strong here. Maybe people are defensive for a reason. I don't know.
I found 4 videos in about 2 minutes. Use quotation marks, or Google/Youtube ignores your actual search terms in favor of their algorithm slanted towards more popular terms that are similar. IE, search 5e no prep and you're get videos on how to prep 5e. Search 5e "no prep" and you get some different responses.

Also, I didn't ask you or anyone else to do a personal search. I asked the forum to show one. I am not asking them to search. I assume if they play this way, they might be more inclined to know others that play this way. That means, they might be more inclined to know of a video being played that way. I am not asking them to research, I am asking if they know of one, then post.
I don't think a lot of people search for how to play in a way they already play. I don't -- in fact, I've never made it through more than a few minutes of a Let's Play. The closest I come is to watching the 1forall and Mann Shorts videos, which are both very short spoofs of games.

And to your bold text, show me where I have argued. I have stated three or four times I want to learn - not argue. I even said: "I AM NOT TRYING TO ARGUE." How these words are not clear to you and you insist on trying to show how clever you are by pointing out esoteric fallacies is beyond me. Because you seem intelligent. But maybe you just like to use that intelligence to stir up drama.
It is apparent to me, you just like to argue. Maybe devil's advocate is your thing. If so. Cool. Have fun.
You say you're not trying to argue, but you've refused any advice to learning that isn't the video format you demand, AND you've said that the lack of such videos shows that the style isn't mainstream, the mechanics don't support it, and the expectations don't support this kind of play. You're hedging back to your original position in this thread based on a lack of suitable to you video evidence and you've completely ignored the wealth of advice and direction, which includes videos -- just not the ones you demand, to continue your professed desire to learn. For someone that so professes, you've done remarkably little to advance.
 

Scott Christian

Adventurer
If someone is trying to run a player-driven and/or character-driven game of the sort that is typical of systems like Apocalypse world, Blades in the Dark, Burning Wheel, etc, but keeps finding that it turns into either GM-driven/prep-heavy or into random encounters, I don't think a video is going to help.

This is a problem this cropping up, presumably, somewhere between session 2 and (say) session 6. What is happening in those sessions that is causing the problem to occur? A lack of player engagement? A lack of GM imagination? Something else?
I will try one more time. I will try to be concise with the info, this way it doesn't get lost.
  • Our campaigns (with many different groups in different places of different age ranges) are player driven. They have character arcs. They have story arcs.
  • We have not played those. Our list of played games is: D&D (all editions), Dangerous Journeys, Conan, The Witcher, Middle Earth, Rolemaster, Numenera, Pathfinder I & II, Gamma World, Top Secret, and a few others.
  • Video won't help. Got it.
  • The problem comes from players deciding the direction of the story, hence prep. Or the DM guiding the story, hence prep. Or no one really needing a story, hence dungeon crawls. You know, like all the D&D games you can find online in a video or at a convention or at a gaming store.
  • There is no problem. Never said there was a problem. Just thought it would be fun to attempt this new approach some people espouse.
  • No lack of engagement. Players and GM's are having fun.
  • No lack of imagination. Last campaign we were inside the body a giant turtle floating through the astral sea. Going from the lungs to the stomach to the liver trying to keep it alive.
  • No something else.

I asked for a visual of this unique GM'ing style for D&D. Thought it might be fun to try. Instead I get met with a didactic commentary about the following:
1. You are inexperienced in these things, so it is difficult to explain. (So I ask for a video.)
2. Why do you need a video? Read summaries of a game that is not D&D. (At first I reject it because I thought these approaches could be fictitious and inside the minds' of the GM's or a ruleset that forces the game to embody them - unlike D&D.)
3. Here is how we play. (I accept it at face value, still knowing it could false. But give the benefit of the doubt and accept they know what they are doing. I ask for tutelage, a video for D&D specifically.)
4. It is rare, therefore it doesn't exist in video for D&D. Use Blades in the Dark. (Spent two hours watching. It was almost exactly like some writers' round-tables that I have been fortunate enough to be a part of. But, I think the rules must have propelled it to be like this. Very different than D&D's rules. Still doesn't look like it can be used for the ruleset that accompanies D&D unless we make many house rules. Ask again for a video of D&D, then I can see what rule changes may be needed because it is certainly more than a GM technique.)
5. Your reasons for why you need videos are full of fallacies. (I exit stage left.)

You see. This is why many players and GM's (go ahead and call out anecdotal!) I speak with that follow forums choose to be dismissive in the end outside of concrete advice. It is why GM advice with large numbers on the web are primarily straightforward speakers. They can take a concept, say a GM describing a setting, and explain it to the masses. It takes smarts to do that. To obfuscate it behind a philosophical diatribe generally means that they are describing their utopia play - not their everyday practice. I have seen this with my very eyes as a player.

Here is an example of something concrete:
When you describe settings to the players try to keep the focus on two things: senses and atmosphere. Use your senses to describe it to the PC's. Describe the people the PC's might come in contact with or describe the group as a whole. Describe the objects that might catch the PC's eyes. Use sound and smell to trigger investigation or foreshadowing. Use your descriptive words to describe atmosphere. A simile or metaphor can invoke a powerful feeling. Even a pause in the right place can cause suspense. Now, try writing it down. Practice saying it out loud. Then during sessions, use your pre-written setting, but also try to adlib. Practice makes perfect.

Here is an example of philosophy written almost always how I see it - with the word I thrown in a lot:
I use setting as a primary motivator for my players. It delineates their actions, and once their actions have become notable fiction within the story environment, I then use that to encompass moral decisions. Not by my choosing of course, but by their thoughts and actions. I also use the setting to foster the growth of contacted cultures and places for the players. Making the world vivid and real. (Then there is always the, "For example.") For example, when I describe a river, I don't just say it is a large fast moving body of water. I use it to describe an infinite number of choices the players might take action upon.

Game theory is great. I am not knocking it. I read and participate in its discussions. But there does come a time when if someone who uses the theory can't speak directly and clearly on a subject, the audience has to wonder whether it's really valid.

I chose not to argue. I chose to believe at face value what people said. But these defensive postures make it very difficult to believe. It is like the person that overreacts right before their falsehood is exposed. I hope that's not the case, since I chose to believe that this exists and it is not just the GM Jedi mind-tricking themselves. And I will continue to believe. And I will also keep looking for videos. If I find one, then I will post it so you can describe the nuances and I can learn.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
I asked for a visual of this unique GM'ing style for D&D. Thought it might be fun to try. Instead I get met with a didactic commentary about the following:

<snip>

I chose not to argue. I chose to believe at face value what people said. But these defensive postures make it very difficult to believe. It is like the person that overreacts right before their falsehood is exposed. I hope that's not the case, since I chose to believe that this exists and it is not just the GM Jedi mind-tricking themselves. And I will continue to believe. And I will also keep looking for videos. If I find one, then I will post it so you can describe the nuances and I can learn.
It may well be that you asked for the visual because you wanted to try it. And it may well be that you wanted to believe and hadn't dismissed it in advance. And it may well be that you are open to the possibility it exists.

I don't believe that anything you've posted after #105 would lead anyone to think so.


Starting at #105


With no particular stake in the argument (I hadn't really thought about how much of a plot was there in advance before), it read to me at the time as pretty much saying you thought those who disagreed with you were ignorant, delusional, and/or liars and didn't understand what was really going on at their table. And you ask them to post their sessions (seemingly to prove otherwise).

And then, a number of people reply, including at least #107 that says they've posted play links before.

And you follow up at the beginning of #124 with it has to be video links - which in retrospect doesn't sound as bad as I remembered at the time in isolation, but reading it in light of #105 and what comes in later posts does. And then later in that post you again say that all DM's making this claim are wrong ("DM's claiming their story is not pre-fabricated are still doing the same things as DM's running AP's.").

And then in #142 "In fairness, maybe that's true. I am open to it. I just feel like I am not wrong in this case. Now to be fully fair, I am also a fan of people believing they do one thing, but are actually doing another." This doesn't sound like you're leaving open the possibility it's true in any real sense. Especially since you are requiring folks to provide video to prove you're wrong: "But as I stated earlier, I am open to the possibility of being wrong. This is why I ask for videos of play to see what people mean by "fill in the blank."'

#152 "Sometimes one has to read and generate a view from the entirety of text rather than understanding a view from a portion of the text." Dismissing another's comments that way probably doesn't help make anyone believe you actually are open to being wrong or seem to encourage a charitable reading of what follows.

And in #158 you say you need the videos because you can't trust what the others are writing up. "A write up occurs after the fact. I mentioned it earlier in the thread. People can weave anything they want into a write up. Not saying they are lying. They're not. But they might look at things differently if in the moment rather than reflecting. The memory, and our actions, are no where near the truth. I think we all know this just from basic psych tests." I read that as either they're either un-selfaware, have uniformly untrustworthy recollections session after session, or are liars (the saying they're not liars doesn't help when the surround doesn't seem to match it).

But then on being asked about that, and if you want videos to test the truth of things in #159, you reply in #160 that the goal is to learn. This seems patently contra to the start of #158 (at least in the conventional sense of to learn).

And so I'm not surprised that no one seems to have taken your "I have taken at face value that others have been able to not have one of these two things happen. I have accepted that." as actually doing so. And then you ask for the video, and then you double down. "If the video does not exist, do me a favor. Ask why? Then please answer that question in writing so we can discuss."

I'd ask why anyone going through this should believe you actually are open to being wrong.
 
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Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I will try one more time. I will try to be concise with the info, this way it doesn't get lost.

[*]Our campaigns (with many different groups in different places of different age ranges) are player driven. They have character arcs. They have story arcs.
I'm pretty sure that how you're using player driven isn't at all what I or @pemerton mean by player driven. When I say it, I mean that the players have authority to direct what play is about. Not the GM, the players. And they do that by how they build their characters and in play moments when they can focus play on their characters. This doesn't mean that the GM designs story arcs about the characters, which is what you appear to mean, but that the player can, in play, choose what play is about.

[*]We have not played those. Our list of played games is: D&D (all editions), Dangerous Journeys, Conan, The Witcher, Middle Earth, Rolemaster, Numenera, Pathfinder I & II, Gamma World, Top Secret, and a few others.
All largely traditional approach games.

[*]Video won't help. Got it.
Video won't help if you find that trying narrativist approaches ends up back in traditional play in a few sessions. Let's be clear about this. It won't help because the problem isn't something you'll see in video of a game session, it's in how you're approaching the game.

[*]The problem comes from players deciding the direction of the story, hence prep. Or the DM guiding the story, hence prep. Or no one really needing a story, hence dungeon crawls. You know, like all the D&D games you can find online in a video or at a convention or at a gaming store.
The problem here is "hence prep." That the things that's been said -- prep isn't always required or necessary. Or, like me, prep is a very loose thing that doesn't plan stories but instead provides situations where story can happen.

[*]There is no problem. Never said there was a problem. Just thought it would be fun to attempt this new approach some people espouse.
The play Apocalypse World, or Dungeon World, or Blades in the Dark. See how it works in a system where you don't have the baggage, then bring over what works for you, if anything.

[*]No lack of engagement. Players and GM's are having fun.
That isn't what player engagement means. The ask was if players are actively pushing the story or if they're falling back into passive habits. Are they declaring actions that require the GM to answer? Most traditional play does not do this. This isn't a bad thing, it's just how that play is structured.

[*]No lack of imagination. Last campaign we were inside the body a giant turtle floating through the astral sea. Going from the lungs to the stomach to the liver trying to keep it alive.
Again, you're missing the point of the question. No one is asking if you can imagine fantastic locales or events, they're asking if it's a problem imagining how play can proceed without the GM driving it.

[*]No something else.


I asked for a visual of this unique GM'ing style for D&D. Thought it might be fun to try. Instead I get met with a didactic commentary about the following:
1. You are inexperienced in these things, so it is difficult to explain. (So I ask for a video.)
No, it's been explained. I've provided play examples for how I use it. Others have as well. You've been pointed towards lots of games and videos and resources that describe this approach and how it works. The "you lack experience" has been in response to your earlier claims that games MUST be A to B or C or else are just random encounters. You lack experience if you believe this to be true (which you appear to still do). As for explaining, no one has said that this lack is what prevents you from understanding and there's been plenty of attempts to show you what this kind of play is. You've just rejected them because they're not of an online video of people doing this in a 5e game. The failure to expand your experience is yours, so far.

2. Why do you need a video? Read summaries of a game that is not D&D. (At first I reject it because I thought these approaches could be fictitious and inside the minds' of the GM's or a ruleset that forces the game to embody them - unlike D&D.)
And then...? At first implies there's a second or third, but you've left this off. It appears you still think this, in fact.

Other rulesets do force GM's to use this technique, but this technique isn't one that can only exist with those rulesets. The technique is independent, even if some rulesets force it. The odd things here is that you reject these as valid ways to learn more about the technique. If you wanted to learn a skill, why would you reject a teaching method that requires you to use it rather than insist on one that doesn't and works fine with your old, familiar methods?

3. Here is how we play. (I accept it at face value, still knowing it could false. But give the benefit of the doubt and accept they know what they are doing. I ask for tutelage, a video for D&D specifically.)
You know, it's getting really tiring to see you continually suggesting that we might all just be morons that don't know what it is we're doing because you have a pet theory. Get over yourself.
4. It is rare, therefore it doesn't exist in video for D&D. Use Blades in the Dark. (Spent two hours watching. It was almost exactly like some writers' round-tables that I have been fortunate enough to be a part of. But, I think the rules must have propelled it to be like this. Very different than D&D's rules. Still doesn't look like it can be used for the ruleset that accompanies D&D unless we make many house rules. Ask again for a video of D&D, then I can see what rule changes may be needed because it is certainly more than a GM technique.)
What about it was like a writer's roundtable? You're now dismissing the play in a way that suggests you didn't follow what was going on -- something that those of us saying videos are poor tools for teaching this style of play have said over and over. I hate watching videos of people playing Blades and I absolutely love playing it. There's a big difference when you're right in the middle of it and you're finding out the story with the players, learning things about the world from your players, and seeing what happens. Watching others play is, well, not nearly as interesting because I'm not a fan of those PCs and I'm not pouring adversity on them. It's a passive engagement with what I find to be a vitally active playstyle.

5. Your reasons for why you need videos are full of fallacies. (I exit stage left.)
No, wanting a video is perfectly valid. Arguing that absent video, the play might not be real is a fallacy. Arguing that only a video involving 5e is valuable for showcasing this kind of play is a fallacy. You wanting a video isn't a fallacy. It's you arguing by lack or presence of a video that's the issue.

You see. This is why many players and GM's (go ahead and call out anecdotal!) I speak with that follow forums choose to be dismissive in the end outside of concrete advice. It is why GM advice with large numbers on the web are primarily straightforward speakers. They can take a concept, say a GM describing a setting, and explain it to the masses. It takes smarts to do that. To obfuscate it behind a philosophical diatribe generally means that they are describing their utopia play - not their everyday practice. I have seen this with my very eyes as a player.
Here's the fun thing, you can find lots of concrete examples of how to use narrativist techniques all over the place. They mostly focus on games that are well suited for them, which isn't 5e. The claim in this thread, by those making it, is that you can still use some of these techniques in 5e. I've specifically pointed out how skill challenges work beautifully with this approach. You claim we're talking in philosophies and being unclear. We aren't, you're just not grasping the points we're making and instead substituting them with different arguments. For example, I've clearly said I prep for my 5e games, but not everything and that I often run sessions where no prep was made because I can use narrativist techniques in play. I've also said that I prep mostly challenges and not stories because I can then use those challenges appropriately for whatever story is being generated by player actions. Do I occasionally prep stuff that's more traditional in 5e? Absolutely, but I don't have to all the time.

Honestly, if I wanted to play a fully narrativist style game, I'd just not play 5e. This is what I'm doing right now with my group's rotation into Blades during the pandemic -- it's easier to play a game that doesn't require the same level of prep effort or PC continuity as what we like in our D&D.

Here is an example of something concrete:
When you describe settings to the players try to keep the focus on two things: senses and atmosphere. Use your senses to describe it to the PC's. Describe the people the PC's might come in contact with or describe the group as a whole. Describe the objects that might catch the PC's eyes. Use sound and smell to trigger investigation or foreshadowing. Use your descriptive words to describe atmosphere. A simile or metaphor can invoke a powerful feeling. Even a pause in the right place can cause suspense. Now, try writing it down. Practice saying it out loud. Then during sessions, use your pre-written setting, but also try to adlib. Practice makes perfect.
Okay, although that's fairly banal and basic advice on how to describe environments, it's decent enough. I can find that pretty much in any random blog post on important things to do when running D&D.

To counter, I gave quite concrete advice and example on how I run skill challenges. These require no houserules, no overhead, no prep, and dramatically alter story. To do it, start with a PC declared goal that is complex enough to warrant more than a simple check. Then, frame the starting scene with an immediate obstacle to overcome. Let the PC's declare actions -- whatever they want. Adjudicate the result using the standard play loop and GM advice on adjudicating action results. If the action is a success, either narrate that success into the current scene by having the approach work and presenting a new challenge or close that scene on the success and move to a new scene, framing a new challenge. On a failure, do the same as above only have the scene reflect the failure in the conditions met. The thing you're trying to do is to let the PC's actions decide what the next scene will be as a natural followup to the previous scene and the success/failure there. Failures either add a new, worse complication or close off the approach tried. Three failures (adjust to taste) result in a failure of the overall goal. A number of successes (choose to taste, but recommend 3 for easy, 5 for moderate, and 7 or more for hard challenges) results in the PCs gaining their overall goal.

A possible example is if the PCs decide to travel to their destination by taking a shortcut through the dark forest. Here, the PC's goal is to gain the advantage of a shortcut. The dark forest is a dangerous place, so this is at risk, and the trek will probably be complex. Hence it's a good candidate for a skill challenge. Determine the overall complexity of the challenge and decide how many successes will be needed. Let's say this is a fairly easy challenge because the woods, while dark, may not be especially deep. So, 3 successes before 3 failures. Then, frame the initial problem for the players, like, "The dark woods have a reputation as a confusing place, with the canopy being so thick as to turn daytime into twilight and a lack of obvious landmarks. How are you going to navigate the woods and keep your way?" The players will declare an action, which will almost always lead to an obvious ability check. Call for that check. If the players succeed, then they have a good method for not getting lost -- don't present another challenge based on getting lost in this challenge until after a failure occurs at a minimum. Now, since they know how to keep from being lost in the woods, frame a different challenge, perhaps one involving a beast or obstacle to travel. If the ability check fails, then the PCs have lost their way -- reframe the scene as them discovering they've lost some time travelling in circles, and the method their using is obviously not working, so what are they going to do now? Or, you could have that failure result in accidentally startling a dangerous creature, as they're paying more attention to finding their way than looking out for danger. The important skill here is taking what the framing of the challenge is, the end goal, and what the players do to move through the challenge, presenting obstacles to that goal and letting the players tell you what's happening.

More advanced uses of this technique would be to use it when the ultimate goal is more unfocused, and let the play of the challenge generate entirely new story and outcomes.

Here is an example of philosophy written almost always how I see it - with the word I thrown in a lot:
I use setting as a primary motivator for my players. It delineates their actions, and once their actions have become notable fiction within the story environment, I then use that to encompass moral decisions. Not by my choosing of course, but by their thoughts and actions. I also use the setting to foster the growth of contacted cultures and places for the players. Making the world vivid and real. (Then there is always the, "For example.") For example, when I describe a river, I don't just say it is a large fast moving body of water. I use it to describe an infinite number of choices the players might take action upon.
Is this your attempt to generate gibberish in a mocking attempt of others? I mean, talk about strawmen -- you've created a field full.

Game theory is great. I am not knocking it. I read and participate in its discussions. But there does come a time when if someone who uses the theory can't speak directly and clearly on a subject, the audience has to wonder whether it's really valid.
We've spoken directly and clearly. I once thought as you do, it didn't make sense to me. I thought people were making it up, or being deliberately obtuse. The thing is, it was me being obtuse. I wasn't actually listening and considering what was said, I was running it against what I already did and it didn't jive, so it must be wrong. I'm, frankly, embarrassed by some of my previous posts and have made apologies to a number of posters because of that.
I chose not to argue. I chose to believe at face value what people said. But these defensive postures make it very difficult to believe. It is like the person that overreacts right before their falsehood is exposed. I hope that's not the case, since I chose to believe that this exists and it is not just the GM Jedi mind-tricking themselves. And I will continue to believe. And I will also keep looking for videos. If I find one, then I will post it so you can describe the nuances and I can learn.
You say that you take what people say and then immediately say that it's hard to believe because people are being 'defensive.' You've done this from the start -- say you accept something but then say it's hard to believe it. You've created the very 'defensive' atmosphere that you're now using to further disclaim that you think others are telling the truth about how they play. This is, frankly, insulting. And not to us.
 

Hussar

Legend
If someone is trying to run a player-driven and/or character-driven game of the sort that is typical of systems like Apocalypse world, Blades in the Dark, Burning Wheel, etc, but keeps finding that it turns into either GM-driven/prep-heavy or into random encounters, I don't think a video is going to help.

This is a problem this cropping up, presumably, somewhere between session 2 and (say) session 6. What is happening in those sessions that is causing the problem to occur? A lack of player engagement? A lack of GM imagination? Something else?
IME, it tends to revolve around a disconnect between the players and the game. The players are not engaged, thus, not providing any forward movement towards any particular goals. So, it falls back onto the GM to provide motivations and goals that are acceptable to the players. So, the DM has to wheel up the plot wagon and start spoon feeding the players until such time as the players actually figure out "This WAY TO ADVENTURE!" and actually do anything.

IOW, passive players are the death of player driven games.
 

pemerton

Legend
I will try one more time. I will try to be concise with the info, this way it doesn't get lost.
  • Our campaigns (with many different groups in different places of different age ranges) are player driven. They have character arcs. They have story arcs.
  • We have not played those. Our list of played games is: D&D (all editions), Dangerous Journeys, Conan, The Witcher, Middle Earth, Rolemaster, Numenera, Pathfinder I & II, Gamma World, Top Secret, and a few others.
  • Video won't help. Got it.
  • The problem comes from players deciding the direction of the story, hence prep. Or the DM guiding the story, hence prep. Or no one really needing a story, hence dungeon crawls. You know, like all the D&D games you can find online in a video or at a convention or at a gaming store.
  • There is no problem. Never said there was a problem. Just thought it would be fun to attempt this new approach some people espouse.
  • No lack of engagement. Players and GM's are having fun.
  • No lack of imagination. Last campaign we were inside the body a giant turtle floating through the astral sea. Going from the lungs to the stomach to the liver trying to keep it alive.
  • No something else.
I don't understand this list. What are the "those" that you have not played?

And what do you mean by "players deciding the direction of the story, hence prep"? What sort of prep? Eg in a game of Top Secret, what sort of prep dose a player do to decide the direction of the story? In Top Secret (at least per the rule book) the player doesn't have authority to draw maps, or write up NPCs, or assign missions.

I am going to repost two bits of self-quote:

The player of the barbarian came up with something first. Paraphrasing slightly, it went like this:

I was about to cut his head of in the arena, to the adulation of the crowd, when the announcement came that the Sorcerer-King was dead, and they all looked away.​

So that answered the question that another player had asked, namely, how long since the Sorcerer-King's overthrow: it's just happened.
Here we see a player establishing the starting time and place of the campaign, and establishing the starting situation of his PC, without any prep.

With the background in place, I then rolled for a patron on the random patron table, and got a "marine officer" result. Given the PC backgrounds, it made sense that Lieutenant Li - as I dubbed her - would be making contact with Roland. The first thing I told the players was that a Scout ship had landed at the starport, although there it has no Scout base and there is no apparent need to do any survey work in the system; and that the principal passenger seemed to be an officer of the Imperial Marines. I then explained that, while doing the rounds at the hospital, Roland received a message from his old comrade Li inviting him to meet her at the casino, and to feel free to bring along any friends he might have in the place.

<snip>

Lt Li wondered whether Vincenzo would be able to take 3 tons of cargo to Byron for her.

<snip>

Methwit thought all this sounded a bit odd - why would a high-class (Soc A) marine lieutenant be smuggling goods into a dead-end world like Byron - and so asked Li back to his hotel room to talk further. With his Liaison-1 and Carousing-1 and a good reaction roll she agreed, and with his Interrogation-1 he was able to obtain some additional information (although he did have to share some details about his own background to persuade her to share).

The real situation, she explained, was that Byron was itself just a stop-over point. The real action was on another world - Enlil - which is technologically backwards and has a disease-ridden atmosphere to which there is no resistance or immunity other than in Enlil's native population. So the goods to be shipped from Ardour-3 were high-tech medical gear for extracting and concentrating pathogens from the atmosphere on Enlil, to be shipped back to support a secret bio-weapons program. The reason a new team was needed for this mission was because Vincenzo had won the yacht from the original team - who were being dealt with "appropriately" for their incompetence in disrupting the operation.

(I had been planning to leave the real backstory to the mission pretty loose, to be fleshed out as needed - including the possibility that Li was actually going to betray the PCs in some fashion - but the move from Methwit's player forced my hand, and I had to come up with some more plausible backstory to explain the otherwise absurd situation I'd come up with. And it had to relate to the worlds I'd come up with in my prep.)
Here is a GM (me) using a combination of random rolls (the Traveller patron table), PC backstory, and player action declaration (eg the decision to seduce and "interrogate" the NPC) to establish story. Not driven by prep.

I don't understand why you assert this can't be done, or make these unsubstantiated inferences "hence prep".

Here is an example of something concrete:
When you describe settings to the players try to keep the focus on two things: senses and atmosphere. Use your senses to describe it to the PC's. Describe the people the PC's might come in contact with or describe the group as a whole. Describe the objects that might catch the PC's eyes. Use sound and smell to trigger investigation or foreshadowing. Use your descriptive words to describe atmosphere. A simile or metaphor can invoke a powerful feeling. Even a pause in the right place can cause suspense. Now, try writing it down. Practice saying it out loud. Then during sessions, use your pre-written setting, but also try to adlib. Practice makes perfect.
If that is how you approach GMing you will not get the sort of play that you are enquiring about.

Instead, try things like "What here catches your eye?" or "What are you looking for?"

Here is an example, this time from Burning Wheel play:

pemerton posting as thurgon said:
The rogue wizard, Jobe, had a relationship with his brother and rival.

<snip>

I had pulled out my old Greyhawk material and told them they were starting in the town of Hardby, half-way between the forest (where the assassin had fled from) and the desert hills (where Jobe had been travelling), and so each came up with a belief around that: I'm not leaving Hardby without gaining some magical item to use against my brother

<snip>

I started things in the Hardby market: Jobe was looking at the wares of a peddler of trinkets and souvenirs, to see if there was anything there that might be magical or useful for enchanting for the anticipated confrontation with his brother. Given that the brother is possessed by a demon, he was looking for something angelic. The peddler pointed out an angel feather that he had for sale, brought to him from the Bright Desert. Jobe (who has, as another instinct, to always use Second Sight), used Aura Reading to study the feather for magical traits.

<snip account of how this resolved>
I knew what the player wanted his PC to find, and started with that. No prep. But it resulted in play that was not just a random sequence of things.
 

aramis erak

Adventurer
And, yet, RPGs come with a rulebook and no video guide.

I learned a completely different RPG style from reading here and buying, reading, and trying Blades in the Dark. I suppose I'm exceptional? I don't think so. I mean, for a long time I actually thought as you seem to and bounced off these approaches. Then I unplugged my computational unit from the nether orifice and tried to learn. It wasn't hard, even without a video, after I accepted it was a doable thing and worked to understand it. I then ported that learning back into 5e.
By virtue of playing anything other than D&D or Pathfinder, that puts you in the second sigma... and a storygame puts you at least 2 sigma. So, yes, statistically, you are VERY exceptional, in the statistical sense of "not near any of the central measures of mean, median, mode, probably not third quintile, either (which is most useful when the distribution is uneven bimodal or trimodal).

Based upon the online play numbers, and several surveys over the years... Between D&D 3e-5e and Pathfinder, you capture about 80-90 percent of all players worldwide; about 75% of those (so 60-63% of all players) only play one edition of either D&D or of Pathfinder, more than half won't consider anything without their standard's trademark.

So, you're already outside the 63% ... and given the story game you purchased and integrated into your playstyle, you've moved past the >80% who have played nothing but D&D (any edition) &/or Pathfinder &/or OSR Retroclones closely hewn to a specific D&D edition... call it the "D&D Family." That puts you past the 80% mark, and thus at least 1.5 sigma. That the other game is a storygame? well, that's a small fraction of the smallish fraction of people who play non-D&D-Family games.

So, yes, you are, at least statistically, rather exceptional, probably +2.5 sigma from the median on the scale Only one D&D edition to Never a D&D edition. Maybe as much as +3 sigma (99th percentile)
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
By virtue of playing anything other than D&D or Pathfinder, that puts you in the second sigma... and a storygame puts you at least 2 sigma. So, yes, statistically, you are VERY exceptional, in the statistical sense of "not near any of the central measures of mean, median, mode, probably not third quintile, either (which is most useful when the distribution is uneven bimodal or trimodal).

Based upon the online play numbers, and several surveys over the years... Between D&D 3e-5e and Pathfinder, you capture about 80-90 percent of all players worldwide; about 75% of those (so 60-63% of all players) only play one edition of either D&D or of Pathfinder, more than half won't consider anything without their standard's trademark.

So, you're already outside the 63% ... and given the story game you purchased and integrated into your playstyle, you've moved past the >80% who have played nothing but D&D (any edition) &/or Pathfinder &/or OSR Retroclones closely hewn to a specific D&D edition... call it the "D&D Family." That puts you past the 80% mark, and thus at least 1.5 sigma. That the other game is a storygame? well, that's a small fraction of the smallish fraction of people who play non-D&D-Family games.

So, yes, you are, at least statistically, rather exceptional, probably +2.5 sigma from the median on the scale Only one D&D edition to Never a D&D edition. Maybe as much as +3 sigma (99th percentile)
While I would agree there's a lot of people that likely only have experience in D&D, your reasoning here is very flawed. It rests on two bad assumptions: 1) that people don't play in multiple games during the reporting period and 2) that this reporting period is the same for all reporting periods.

Starting with 1), I have, during this reporting period, played/created characters in both a 5e game and a Blades game. Same for the last reporting period, with the addition of a Fiasco game. I also played around by creating a game for AW last reporting cycle to see what tools were available in Roll20, but didn't play. All of these hit the stats. I'm counted in both 5e and Blades in this cycle, but you cannot put that out from the stats as presented. What this means is that you cannot assume that the 5e player stat doesn't include people playing other games as well -- it's not all or nothing. I'll grant it's likely that a sizable chunk of the 5e player base is 5e only, but you can't get there from here.

2) is more of the same. I can imagine a player that was playing Dungeon World exclusively in the last reporting cycle, but completed that game and is now playing 5e exclusively in this reporting cycle. This would go towards the large number of 5e players, but completely hides that, at one time, another game was played. So, you can't go from even the aggregate numbers over multiple cycles to say that 75% have ONLY played D&D. Again, I think that's not far off from the truth, but you still can't get there from here. What those number show is that most games played at any given time are D&D, but you can't pull out player experience with games from that data.

Finally, "story game" has a particular meaning, and PbtA or Forged in the Dark games don't meet it. They're more narrative focused, yes, but are not story games. Fiasco is a story game. Apocalypse World or Blades are not story games. Minor quibble, really, but worthwhile to distinguish a game who's mechanics are more baton passing from a game that uses narrative techniques but still has a strong mechanic bite and defined player roles. That said, if you haven't tried Fiasco, it's simple and quick and, if you and your friends enjoy things going off the rails like a Cohen brothers movie, it delivers the goods. You can compete a game in an hour, easy, or two if you really like hamming it up (or it's your first go with it). But, if you do, then you'll see a difference between what's inarguably a story game (Fiasco) and what's not a story game (PbtA). Some games blur that line more than others -- I'm honestly not sure where Dread fits, but I currently have it more on the non-story game side of the line.
 

aramis erak

Adventurer
While I would agree there's a lot of people that likely only have experience in D&D, your reasoning here is very flawed. It rests on two bad assumptions: 1) that people don't play in multiple games during the reporting period and 2) that this reporting period is the same for all reporting periods.

Starting with 1), I have, during this reporting period, played/created characters in both a 5e game and a Blades game.

Finally, "story game" has a particular meaning, and PbtA or Forged in the Dark games don't meet it. [snip of irrelevant BS]
Given that the creator of AW has used the term storygame for it on occasion,a nd uses RPG for it on his website, I reject out of hand your objection; the term isn't narrow. Essentially, it's any game designed to encourage a story-first mode of play, and lacking significant simulationism (story-games.com via Archive.org). And AW very definitely is exactly that. Now, there are storygames that aren't RPGs... the leading example being Once Upon A Time... a knee-jerk "I don't play storygames" tirade does not change the fact that AW is a very narrativist agenda with just enough gameism to keep things moving if the story stalls.

As for the surveys: the surveys which show the percentages of D&D exclusivity weren't asking for a specific period. In the several surveys by Wizards, some 80% of D&D players reported never having played any game that wasn't D&D, and many have only played one edition of D&D ever. Even on RPGG, there are a significant subset who only play D&D family games, most of those only 1 edition at any given time. The most recent by wizards that I recall was during the dev period for 5E, and it was pretty impressively "We'll play only D&D branded games." What's surprising was the response set included some who'd never played D&D, SWd20, SWSE...
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Given that the creator of AW has used the term storygame for it on occasion,a nd uses RPG for it on his website, I reject out of hand your objection; the term isn't narrow. Essentially, it's any game designed to encourage a story-first mode of play, and lacking significant simulationism (story-games.com via Archive.org). And AW very definitely is exactly that. Now, there are storygames that aren't RPGs... the leading example being Once Upon A Time... a knee-jerk "I don't play storygames" tirade does not change the fact that AW is a very narrativist agenda with just enough gameism to keep things moving if the story stalls.
Okay. I'm not sure that definition means much outside of the Forge, but you can have it. It doesn't do much for me.
As for the surveys: the surveys which show the percentages of D&D exclusivity weren't asking for a specific period. In the several surveys by Wizards, some 80% of D&D players reported never having played any game that wasn't D&D, and many have only played one edition of D&D ever. Even on RPGG, there are a significant subset who only play D&D family games, most of those only 1 edition at any given time. The most recent by wizards that I recall was during the dev period for 5E, and it was pretty impressively "We'll play only D&D branded games." What's surprising was the response set included some who'd never played D&D, SWd20, SWSE...
Well, a survey of D&D players by the D&D company on the D&D websites might, you know, skew toward D&D pretty heavily. Or, selection bias.
 

pemerton

Legend
I'm prepared to accept that most RPGers play only some version of D&D. But I don't think that is very relevant to @Ovinomancer's posts on this thread.

Ovinomancer's point (as I understand it) is not that he is statistically unexceptional. It's that he is not particularly exception in his capabilities. In other words, anyone else who is posting on ENworld and who wants to understand how to play a RPG in a way that is closer to player-driven PbtA than to GM-driven AP-oriented play, probably can do so.

Furthermore, they probably can do so without needing videos or other foresnic-level proof that such other approaches to play exist.

I'm also sympathetic to Ovinomancer's rejection of the label "story game" in this particular context. Because in this particular context what is significant about BitD, AW etc is that they are RPGs, with pretty traditional allocations of responsibilities to players and GMs, but they allow for story to emerge in play without the need for anyone to have pre-authored it.

What is significant in the context of this thread is how techniques other than pre-authorship but also other than round-robin/pass-the-baton shared storytelling can be incorporated into RPGing so as to ensure that play will result in emergence of a story.
 

I would like to second the notion that @Ovinomancer is unexceptional.

😜

In seriousness, though, although the vast bulk of my RPGing has been some form of D&D, it still surprises me how many people here on a RPG based site never seem to branch out beyond that category. It seems that there are a few common exceptions such as Call of Cthulhu and Star Wars, and then not much else.

One would tend to think of gamers as generally open-minded...so it does seem odd that trait doesn’t seem to carry over to the idea of trying new games. I get that D&D is foundational in many ways, but still I can’t help but wish that more folks would be willing to try more games.
 
Last edited:

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I would like to second the notion that @Ovinomancer is unexceptional.

😜

In seriousness, though, although the vast bulk of my RPGing has been some form of D&D, it still surprises me how many people here on a RPG based site never seem to branch out beyond that category. It seems that there are a few common exceptions such as Call of Cthulhu and Star Wars, and then not much else.

One would tend to think of gamers as generally open-minded...so it does seem odd that trait doesn’t seem to carry over to the idea of trying new games. I get that D&D is foundational in many ways, but still I can’t help but wish that more folks would be willing to try more games.
Speaking for myself. When I was in high school and the years right after, I had tons of time. We would sometimes play for days or even weeks straight. We played lots of D&D, but we also played Gamma World, Star Frontiers, Marver Super Heroes, Boot Hill, and some others. The time was there. What we didn't have were families, full time jobs and other responsibilities.

Now, I have all of those things. I get to game once a week for about 4 hours. I don't have the time to really invest in learning and playing a new game for long enough to really decide if it's good or not. Myself and my group love D&D and don't want to take months of time away from D&D to give a new game a fair shake, and it would be a waste of time to give it an unfair shake. So we only play D&D.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I would like to second the notion that @Ovinomancer is unexceptional.

😜

In seriousness, though, although the vast bulk of my RPGing has been some form of D&D, it still surprises me how many people here on a RPG based site never seem to branch out beyond that category. It seems that there are a few common exceptions such as Call of Cthulhu and Star Wars, and then not much else.

One would tend to think of gamers as generally open-minded...so it does seem odd that trait doesn’t seem to carry over to the idea of trying new games. I get that D&D is foundational in many ways, but still I can’t help but wish that more folks would be willing to try more games.
It's a mistake to think gamers are any more open to new things than any other group. It's like sports fans -- most follow a singke sport, a few more follow 2, but it's the rare fan that follows more than that.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
In seriousness, though, although the vast bulk of my RPGing has been some form of D&D, it still surprises me how many people here on a RPG based site never seem to branch out beyond that category. It seems that there are a few common exceptions such as Call of Cthulhu and Star Wars, and then not much else.

One would tend to think of gamers as generally open-minded...so it does seem odd that trait doesn’t seem to carry over to the idea of trying new games. I get that D&D is foundational in many ways, but still I can’t help but wish that more folks would be willing to try more games.
1. Path dependency.

2. Network effects.

It's pretty simple. Most people play D&D* because most people play D&D, and have played D&D. Most new players who are introduced into RPGs learn to play D&D from other people playing D&D. They then invest in D&D material to play D&D. If they move to a new place, they are likely to find other D&D players.

D&D is easy, and it is ubiquitous. It is both a lingua franca and a fallback. It is easier for most people to customize D&D to what they want (with other people who know D&D) than to play a new game.

It is what it is; simply put, any other game will merely be an alternative.


*I am broadly including all versions of D&D and D&D clones, here, including PF.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
1. Path dependency.

2. Network effects.

It's pretty simple. Most people play D&D* because most people play D&D, and have played D&D. Most new players who are introduced into RPGs learn to play D&D from other people playing D&D. They then invest in D&D material to play D&D. If they move to a new place, they are likely to find other D&D players.

D&D is easy, and it is ubiquitous. It is both a lingua franca and a fallback. It is easier for most people to customize D&D to what they want (with other people who know D&D) than to play a new game.

It is what it is; simply put, any other game will merely be an alternative.


*I am broadly including all versions of D&D and D&D clones, here, including PF.
It's not actually easier to customize D&D to do what you want, unless you're staying in a pretty narrow band of play. People spend huge amounts of effort to customize it because that's what they know and there's a weird identity thing in saying you play D&D, even if a heavily house-ruled version. Most of the effort I see people doing in trying to modify D&D would be clearly better served by picking up a game that already does that. What's even more odd about D&D fixation is the edition thing -- people stick to an edition. You'd think, given the huge range of OSR games that have already made modification to do specific things they'd be more used, but people really seem to want to put a designer hat on with D&D. Further to that, having only had experience with D&D, they rarely actually realize what the game is doing because that's all they know, so their mods don't really address the problems they have. There's a reason that a personalized version of D&D is usually called a Fantasy Heartbreaker.

I wish every D&D player would, at some point, give an earnest try of a different system. They can hate it, that's fine, but the experience is still very rewarding when you come back to D&D-- open eyes make for better choices. My D&D games got lots better after I branched out because, when I play D&D, I'm not trying to make the game anything other than what it is; I embrace it and play it that way. It's when you use D&D to do something that D&D isn't that you get into trouble, and most with only D&D experience think D&D can do way more than it actually does.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
It's not actually easier to customize D&D to do what you want, unless you're staying in a pretty narrow band of play. People spend huge amounts of effort to customize it because that's what they know and there's a weird identity thing in saying you play D&D, even if a heavily house-ruled version. Most of the effort I see people doing in trying to modify D&D would be clearly better served by picking up a game that already does that. What's even more odd about D&D fixation is the edition thing -- people stick to an edition. You'd think, given the huge range of OSR games that have already made modification to do specific things they'd be more used, but people really seem to want to put a designer hat on with D&D. Further to that, having only had experience with D&D, they rarely actually realize what the game is doing because that's all they know, so their mods don't really address the problems they have. There's a reason that a personalized version of D&D is usually called a Fantasy Heartbreaker.

I wish every D&D player would, at some point, give an earnest try of a different system. They can hate it, that's fine, but the experience is still very rewarding when you come back to D&D-- open eyes make for better choices. My D&D games got lots better after I branched out because, when I play D&D, I'm not trying to make the game anything other than what it is; I embrace it and play it that way. It's when you use D&D to do something that D&D isn't that you get into trouble, and most with only D&D experience think D&D can do way more than it actually does.
I wish more people in America would walk to work instead of drive cars. And?
I wish more people in America would eat at local restaurants instead of corporate fast food and fast causal establishments. And?

People play D&D. I explained why. It seems unlikely to change, but who knows.

EDIT: I find it is often more helpful to understand why something is and work with that than assume people shouldn't do something that they choose to do and argue against it.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I wish more people in America would walk to work instead of drive cars. And?
I wish more people in America would eat at local restaurants instead of corporate fast food and fast causal establishments. And?

People play D&D. I explained why. It seems unlikely to change, but who knows.

EDIT: I find it is often more helpful to understand why something is and work with that than assume people shouldn't do something that they choose to do and argue against it.
Well, I'm certainly enlightened. I mean, I put out a clear wishful thought that more people would look for different experiences so that they can make better choices on what's fun for them, but, yeah, totally shouldn't have done that. What was I thinking?
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Well, I'm certainly enlightened. I mean, I put out a clear wishful thought that more people would look for different experiences so that they can make better choices on what's fun for them, but, yeah, totally shouldn't have done that. What was I thinking?
Don't know. You probably didn't use enough paragraphs to explain it.
 

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